MEDICALLY, A DISORDER is defined as ‘an illness that disrupts normal physical or mental functions’.
Anxiety disorders are ‘self-damaging thoughts, feelings and behaviours with anxiety at their core’.
Currently there are five types of anxiety disorder classified, these are:-
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
With a constant underlying anxiety, this problem involves long-lasting exaggerated and unrealistic worry over such things as: health and personal safety, the safety of family
members, money problems, accidents happening etc. It is
often accompanied by physical anxiety symptoms such as
trembling, being on-edge and body aches.
2. Panic Disorder
This involves attacks of panic that appear to come on for no reason ('out of the blue'). The physical symptoms of panic include a racing heartbeat (palpitations), chest pain, sweating, trembling and shaking.
When such attacks happen, many people fear that they are having a heart attack or stroke, dying or going mad.
Over time, general anxiety increases due to the worry and fear over having another attack.
These can be specific such as the fear of a certain thing ( eg.
dogs, spiders, snakes – known as simple phobias) or more generalized, where the fear involves situations.
Generalized phobias include:-
x_ Agoraphobia: the fear of outdoors or places where
relief and/or escape from a panic attack would be difficult.
x_ Social phobia (social anxiety disorder) in which we fear
situations where we have to do things in front of others and there is the possibility that they may judge or criticize or ridicule or reject us.
4. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
This is characterised by the repetitive performing of rituals
or routines known as compulsions ( eg. hand washing) in order
to relieve anxiety caused by obsessive thoughts ( obsessions).
One particularly common obsession is the fear of being contaminated or contaminating others.
5. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Here, traumatic events that have been experienced are often re-lived through flashbacks or nightmares. This can lead the avoidance of similar situations or places, emotional numbing and the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Although current beliefs about these problems limit them
to the list above, Depression really should be included.
Indeed the link between anxiety and depression problems is now so well established that medications for depression (antidepressants) are often prescribed for anxiety.
Eating Disorders should also be added to the list for
anxiety drives problems ranging from comfort eating and
constant dieting through to anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Anxiety disorders vary as infinitely as the people who get them. Each problem is unique to the individual. Expressions of social phobia vary from person to person just as those of agoraphobia vary from panic disorder and GAD varies from OCD.
However, as unique to the individual these problems are
and as different to each other they are, these problems develop for similar reasons and strengthen in a similar way. They do so in a manner that reflects the way our mind and body works.
When we look more closely at these disorders (including depression and eating disorders) there are a number of psychological symptoms common to them all.
Psychological Symptoms Common to Many Anxiety Disorders
Involves things like always needing to be the strongest, most beautiful or handsome, or the cleverest. To have
the best body, to do the best, to be the best etc.
x_ Constantly making comparisons
Always comparing ourselves with other people and coming up short.
Constantly watching our self.
x_ Child-like behaviour
Seeking the love and approval of parents and others.
Common fantasies include: 'one day being rich and famous or being great, loved by all'.
x_ Excessive Tidiness
This represents attempts to bring form and order to our world, to gain a sense of being in control.
Here, what is done by (happens to) one side of the body must be done by (happen to) the other side. This is also related to order and control.
x_ Ending sentences with questions
We do this to shift the attention away from us to the other person.
x_ Mild paranoia
Can involve constant feelings of 'being picked on' and feeling that 'others are treated better'.
x_ Poor body image
Believing our body, or parts of it, are 'not good enough'.
x_ Bad posture
Standing shoulders down, feet inwards and arms in front of body, trying to be small, almost apologetic for being there.
x_ Others include:-
Persistent negative thoughts and images, constantly looking back for reasons and answers and feelings of having no control over our mind or body.
Anxiety disorders reflect subconscious ways humans have
evolved to protect themselves. Almost everyone displays behaviours associated with these problems at some time in their lives. Behaviours such as disturbing thoughts, checking, the need for order and cleanliness, anxiety, panic and despair are inherently part of being human.
How many people (without anxiety problems)…
x_ Say 'Touch Wood' so as not to tempt fate?
x_ Repeatedly check doors, windows, switches?
x_ Take a drink before social functions?
x_ Avoid public speaking at all costs?
In looking at these problems as illnesses and disorders, the bigger picture is overlooked. And the real way to deal with them is hidden.